A story in a single dish

Jordan’s sustainable gastronomy scene

A story in a single dish: Jordan’s sustainable gastronomy scene
(Photo: Jude Al-Safadi)
AMMAN — On June 18th, Sustainable Gastronomy Day was commemorated with a remarkable event at the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, where four renowned chefs from different regions of the Kingdom assembled. The gathering, organized by Hospitality in Health, aimed to honor this annual occasion with a captivating four-course dinner entitled "From Farm to Fork in Jordan."اضافة اعلان

Each dish served during the dinner carried its own unique narrative, including the very plates they were presented on, even the plates on which the first dish of the evening was served celebrated artisanal pottery made by the local women's community of Iraq al-Amir.

(Photo: Sarah Shabbar)

Celebrating local chefs, vendors, and the foodies who love to see them strive, everything served throughout the evening was a constant reminder of how purposeful eating is essential to the future of gastronomy.

All key ingredients on the menu were 100 percent local, seasonal, and sourced from 11 different Jordanian suppliers. And channeling my inner Chandler Bing, I thought: “Could this be any more local?”

So, let us dig in. I thankfully got to sit at the most interesting table, in my humble opinion, of the evening and break upcycled bread (literally) with some of the evening’s vendors.

(Photo: Sarah Shabbar)

Amelia Bilbeisi from Maida Olive Oil shared insights about one of the Kingdom’s most beloved ingredients and the local scene of olive oil overall. Her farm, located in the central desert region of Jordan, grows five varieties of cultivators and picks and presses within hours in its onsite mill. Bilbeisi, an olive oil sommelier, highlighted how this small yet mighty ingredient is one of the most important aspects of piecing together a dish.

As we dipped upcycled bread in her Arbosana blend, we waited eagerly to see how each chef would take on each dish of the night and what would be the star ingredient in each course.

(Photo: Sarah Shabbar)

Meanwhile, to my left sat Ahmad Dweikat from Cuts — the only full-blood Wagyu breeder in the region. He highlighted even the small practices of sustainable meat in the Kingdom, something often overlooked when dug deep into shows a bigger need for humane, sustainable practices when it comes to meat.

As the founder of HIH, Nicolas Dingemans prompted us to open our phones, the evening's menu prevailed, and the first dish was unveiled.

First course: A homage to the bounty of herbs in the Kingdom
The first course was served by Chef Sara Aqel, who focused on the socio-economic impact with a salad that included pickled onions, basil, mint, fennel, mulberry, and green herbs, all sourced from local farms. Her dish, served in the aforementioned local artisanal pottery, was super fun to eat, to say the least.

(Photo: Sarah Shabbar)

Each ingredient, each of the same size, and the aromatic herbs was her homage to how even the most looked over ingredients are truly stars. She said, “I used herbs which can be found everywhere in Jordan, even on the sidewalks, while I travel a lot; since I have been back in Amman, I have not had to buy these ingredients; they can be found everywhere.”

Also, if you did not know, now you know that, according to Aqel, “lemon zest is the Chanel for food.”

Second course: No more food waste
If you’re a Weibdeh native or local, you have probably walked by multiple times or even enjoyed eating at Joz Hind. If you are like me, a local to the neighborhood, you might have even had the pleasure of walking by in the morning and watching Chef Luca Lelli blast metal music while prepping ingredients for the day.

His dish, focused on innovation and no waste, was a chilled plant-based soup with baby apple, pickled radish, and beetroot caviar. As he explained it as a touch-and-eat dish, touch your spoon, put it in your mouth, savor, and repeat.

With a whipped white cheese foam on top, each color paired beautifully with red, white, and green as an ode to the Kingdom’s flag, while unintentional, was super cool.

(Photo: Jude Al-Safadi)

The dish was a reminder of how you can easily break up the tradition, even on soups.

Just as Lelli lives outside of the box, eating a chilled soup on quite a hot day might even be your next inspiration for what you can do to create a no-waste meal when you need to clean out the fridge.

Third course: An ode to the Jordanian household 
The third course, served by Chef Mohammad Atieh, MBC Top Chef finalist and Executive Chef of W Amman, focused his main dish on many ingredients that can be found in a Jordanian household and the way he symphonized them together in a medley of flavors was admirable.

The main course featured the star ingredients, grilled halal Jordanian Wagyu striploin beef, bulgur, roasted hamlet, grape leaf chips, red grape tamarind BBQ sauce, and carrot ginger crumble. Atieh said, “It is a dish you can make at home.” While his sentiment is sweet, it might be a bit ambitious.

While it may not be a dish everyone can make at home, it plays beautifully to how home is the first place where we learn our love for food and our palettes. The red grape tamarind BBQ was a refreshing taste to the overused pomegranate molasses in Levantine cuisine.

Fourth course: Food is political 
The fourth dish was the star of the night. As Chef Aya Alqour, from Aya Elite Patisserie, came out to introduce her dish, she carried an empty plate that resembled an embroidery hoop, and the wonder and the awe of each guest amplified.

Her dish, which was refined sugar-free, was an absolute creative masterpiece and a reminder that even food can be political. As the dish came out, the top was coated with a black layer of dark chocolate and the red "Tatreez" design. Underneath the edible "Tatreez" laid an organic peach clafoutis with a sugar-free salted honey brown butter caramel.

(Photo: Jude Al-Safadi)

A hat off to her grandmother, and maybe even an unintended nod to the current world we live in and the Palestinian occupation, the dish was perhaps another way of asserting tradition in a beautifully masterful way.

Where the idea all started
As the evening went on, the conversations and laughter grew, the events were organized, and founder, Dingemans shared his love for the culinary arts, especially when it comes to supporting Sustainable Culinary Tourism.

With tradition preserved, and innovation invited, Dingemans told Jordan News about how his idea started and why Jordan was its home. “It all started with culinary tourism, and Jordan has the perfect foundation to take the reins in being one of the leaders of culinary tourism in the region.”

And his methodology for building culinary tourism remains through three pillars: ingredients, the farmer, and the chef.

Then, in a small and delicious package, it is brought to use by the consumers, food lovers, and wanderers with him, leaving his final note, “One ingredient can share hundreds of stories.”

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